Dreams My Master: Preproduction ends

This is part 4 of the journey. Start at page 1. And please check out the Kickstarter and consider backing it!

Production design

Production design is essential to telling a story, even more so in Dreams My Master, where we have two storylines that take place in different environments. The groundwork of course came from Daniel and Maris, who found two locations that looked very different. But then we had Michelle for production design who took care of all the details.

I had all these images in my head about what things were supposed to look like, and Michelle did a remarkable job making things work with a minimum budget - the entire project was already much more expensive than I originally imagined.

Michelle turned an empty guest room into a kids room, complete with a bunk bed
Michelle got very creative with adding the bare minimum of props to a set to give it a distinct look. Jeff finished it off by lighting the scenes very differently.

It was exacerbated by the fact that we didn't really have locations until days for the shoot, which made planning next to impossible. Are we going to have a theme park? Are we going to need props to dress something up to look like one? Michelle went through hell in the days before the shoot, but ultimately got everything set up.


July 31 was the day of rehearsal. We went through the script, scene by scene, played it out, tweaked it, discussed it, until it felt right.

Amusingly, Tyler and Jentzen were disciplined and quiet while Issac and Charles turned the hotel room into a raucous party after every single scene - which conveniently matched the characters they were playing.

Here's a short clip recorded during rehearsal that shows what the room typically sounded like after every scene:

I spent a lot of time trying to choose the actors after the callbacks. I went over the footage again and again and watched every motion very closely and listened to every line, and still had a hard time making up my mind. After rehearsal, it felt like the actors were the obvious choices for the characters, like they were the only right actors I could have possibly picked. I had the same experience with Appreciation - after a few hours of seeing them play things out, I grew very attached to them and associated the characters with these actors, like anybody else would have been unthinkable.

Which is funny, because the characters changed quite a bit from what I was originally looking for - Ernie was supposed to be a big, muscular character who intimidates his kids with his sheer presence, and we did have quite a few candidates for that. Rico however ultimately felt like the better choice in so many ways. He was still perfectly able to keep his kids in check - in fact, when Issac and Charles starting fooling around after a take and wouldn't stop, he was often the one to calm them down.

Damian's character was meant to be quiet and meek, but Issac had a lot of sass that was hard to put away. I liked it though, ultimately it pitted both kids against Ernie and added to the frustration he was meant to go through, which made his struggle even more pronounced.

Up until the rehearsals, I was extremely nervous about everything. Does the story as a whole work? How do the actors work together? Am I able to give them directions? Not to mention all the logistical issues Daniel and Maris had to deal with.

That night, Friday, July 31, after rehearsal, I sat in my hotel room, overlooking Burbank from the 14th floor, listening to Soul Coughing's "Screenwriter's Blues", and suddenly I felt that it's all going to be good. It will all come together. This is going to be great.

It is 5am, and you are listening to Los Angeles
The first day of the shoot begins in the next chapter. Stay tuned, and please check out the Kickstarter campaign.